Future Stars: Aminé (Republic)

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Continuing the Portland theme, it’s probably not the first American city you’d expect to launch a new hip-hop star, but it has provided us with Adam Aminé Daniel, better known as Aminé. The 23-year-old rapper/singer might not be twee but he could definitely be described as quirky. My first instinct on hearing his debut single Caroline last year was that its groovy synth production and sense of humour reminded me of Outkast, and it turned out they were a major inspiration. In fact, the name Caroline is taken from their song Roses (remember, the girl who thinks her poo doesn’t smell?). The song became a huge hit for Aminé, as it went 3x Platinum in the US and just missed the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100. It has over 180 million views on YouTube, and I’m sure Aminé’s entertaining performance and chemistry with his crew in the self-directed video had a lot to do with that. Since then he’s collaborated with labelmates Kehlani and Offset from Migos and appeared as his usual smiley self in Charli XCX’s Boys video (look out for Portugal. The Man’s John Gourley in there too). This week he released his debut album Good for You, and the latest single Wedding Crashers is currently trending on Spotify worldwide. Aminé is a unique, distinctive artist who fits in with the hip-hop scene of 2017, but also brings a fresh take which I think will appeal to a much wider audience just like his idols, Outkast.

Future Stars: Portugal. The Man (Atlantic)

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Back in March I went to see the brilliant Jens Lekman in Portland, Oregon, and my music-loving Uber driver played me a track by his favourite local band. This could have been awkward, but I was actually impressed. The catchy song, which interpolates Please Mr. Postman, was Feel It Still by Portugal. The Man, and five months later it’s their breakthrough hit. Portugal. The Man have been together 13 years but I’m featuring them here because they’re poised to become much better known. They formed in Alaska, moved to Portland for music opportunities, and were embraced by the city that’s known for everything quirky and twee. They toured regularly, released music independently, and played festivals like Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza. In 2010 they signed to Atlantic and mixed up their indie-pop sound by working with producers such as Danger Mouse and The Beastie Boys’ Mike D. New album Woodstock was released last month, preceded by Feel It Still in March (on the very day of that Jens Lekman gig, in fact – my driver was clearly into New Music Friday). So far it’s been no.1 on the Billboard Adult Alternative and Alternative Songs charts, and is currently moving up the Hot 100, while entering the top 20 on US iTunes. It has 43 million Soundcloud plays, almost double their next biggest song, which has been out four years. It will be pushed to US mainstream radio from tomorrow, and I think it could easily be 2017’s Pumped Up Kicks or Young Folks.

Song of the Week: Pretty Much – Would You Mind

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Labels are so wary of the cost of a major pop launch  these days, that they are rare treats for us who love to follow their every twist and turn. That’s why I’m excitedly tracking Syco/Columbia’s new US boyband  Pretty Much, who I first featured last month. At the time they didn’t have any music online  but I was expecting it to be very current, cool and upbeat, like a boyband version of post-2015 Justin Bieber. I also assumed the aim was to create a modern, updated version of the American boybands that have been most successful in the past, Backstreet Boys and *N Sync. What I did not expect was for their debut single to actually sound like an early release by one of those groups. In fact, it could even be compared to their predecessor, New Kids on the Block. Would You Mind is a 90s-style boyband track that could even be called “dated,” yet everything else about this campaign is smart and innovative. I love the ethnic diversity in the casting, the social media posts which are fun without trying too hard, and the clever marketing tricks such as this dance video posted by a big YouTuber on the single release day. They’ve clearly got Spotify on board,  as they were top of last week’s New Music Friday  despite very little prior hype. The single certainly is poptastic (thanks to Savan Kotecha  and his brilliant team, including Max Martin on keyboards!)  but it’s a brave move to take this direction when it’s so far from the tastes of a teen pop fan today. Are Pretty Much good enough to change those tastes? I wouldn’t bet against them.

Future Hits: Addicted to your drama

Taken from this week’s Future Pop mailer. Click here to subscribe.

My weekly playlist features five tracks I predict will be future hit singles in the UK.

Tracklisting:

  • Louis Tomlinson ft. Bebe Rexha & Digital Farm Animals – Back To You
  • Pretty Much – Would You Mind
  • Post Malone – Congratulations
  • Portugal. The Man – Feel It Still
  • Khalid – Young Dumb & Broke

For more Future Hits, subscribe to my  Spotify playlist, updated weekly (when I remember) with the next big thing.

Future Stars: Cardi B (Atlantic)

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Cardi B is Belcalis Almanzar, a 24-year-old rapper from the Bronx, who is best known for appearing on reality show Love & Hip Hop New York. She has done what many reality stars have failed to do, and successfully translated her popularity on the series into a burgeoning music career. She quit after two seasons to focus on music, and the gamble has paid off. Her latest single Bodak Yellow is her first to break the Billboard Hot 100, with 14 million YouTube views in the month since release. She recently appeared on the Wendy Williams Show to perform the track, which tells of how she was able to give up her job as a stripper when she became famous and started “making money moves.” Cardi became a fan favourite on Love & Hip Hop thanks to her sassy personality and drama-filled life. The series charted her relationship with jailed rapper Tommy Geez, thought she’s since switched him for a much more successful hip-hop boyfriend, Offset from Migos, who she collaborated with on her previous single, Lick. Her catchphrase (“owww!”) was getting on my nerves after watching just one interview, but she’s certainly an entertaining addition to the rap scene. Whether or not she becomes a mainstream star, she’s certainly made her name among hip-hop fans, and has a huge social media fanbase ready to hear what she does next.

Future Stars: Ruel (Unsigned)

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A few weeks ago, I doubt Ruel was on any A&R’s radar outside of Australia, but the 14-year-old singer from Sydney will be attracting much more attention since the release of his debut single, Don’t Tell Me. The track is currently in the UK viral top 10 on Spotify and no.14 globally. With his vocal talent and a teen star look, Ruel could have become famous on Musical.ly or Instagram, but his music and marketing are not targeting Gen Z. He’s more like a male equivalent of Birdy, who also skipped past the teen market, despite releasing her debut single at age 14. This allows him to stand out from his peers, and catch the attention of the music industry, in a way that young artists with much bigger followings haven’t been able to, because they’re unknown outside their social media bubble. Ruel is a protegée of Aussie producer M-Phazes, who’s worked with local stars such as Guy Sebastian, rappers including Eminem, and had a cut on the latest Zara Larsson album. The pair previously collaborated on a song called Golden Years, and performed on Like a Version (the Australian Live Lounge). With his youthful cuteness and a single that sounds like Rag’n’Bone Man (but much less growly), Ruel could have the mum market sewn up, and I reckon he’ll pick up plenty of fans of his own age along the way. And if you’re wondering how he came up with the name Ruel, it’s actually just his first name. His full name is the extremely un-Australian, Ruel Van Dijk.

Song of the Week: Blackmagic ft. Fetty Wap – Wonder

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Since being released earlier this month, Wonder by Nigerian singer Blackmagic hasn’t attracted much interest, and this itself is a wonder. Not only does it feature Fetty Wap, but Wonder is a very current and commercial, summery song with a carnival vibe, which sounds like a huge potential hit to me. The only thing I’d change is making the female vocals more prominent and frequent throughout the track. Afrobeats hasn’t had a crossover hit for a while, and I don’t believe this sound should be a passing trend. It’s a genre that western audiences should embrace, and would if they had more exposure to it, as proven by the success of Fuse ODG and OMI’s Cheerleader. Blackmagic, a singer, rapper and songwriter whose real name is Efemena Mukoro, has released three albums since 2013. Wonder originally appeared in early 2016, but was re-released with Fetty Wap on board by Ministry of Sound this year.

Future Hits: All of my homies gonna shine

Taken from this week’s Future Pop mailer. Click here to subscribe.

My weekly playlist features five tracks I predict will be future hit singles in the UK.

Tracklisting:

  • Selena Gomez ft. Gucci Mane – Fetish
  • Ed Sheeran – Perfect
  • The Script – Rain
  • French Montana ft. The Weeknd & Max B – A Lie
  • Chase & Status ft. Emeli Sandé – Love Me More

For more Future Hits, subscribe to my  Spotify playlist, updated weekly (when I remember) with the next big thing.

Future Stars: Tom Grennan (Insanity/Sony)

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22-year-old singer-songwriter Tom Grennan represents a new breed of young men that crosses between the usually opposing categories of hipster and lad, the same strange intermingling that created the man-bun. Androgyny through a Topman filter. Tom’s look makes him hard to place as an artist, as he’s neither edgy or accessible, and his music is in the same no man’s land. He has a husky, soulful voice very similar to Hozier, but sometimes undermines his talent and authenticity with affected pronunciation, such as on his early single, Something In The Water. So far, Tom is best known for featuring on Chase & Status’s 2016 single All Goes Wrong, which helped him get a spot on the BBC Sound of 2017 list. Since then he’s released a few more singles and appeared on new track Memory Lane by grime MC Bugzy Malone, which I think has hit potential. As a solo artist, earlier this month Tom released Found What I’ve Been Looking For, which has the most commercial appeal of any of his tracks so far, as it’s more energetic and melodic. It could go down well with the Radio 2 audience, if he’s open to taking that route.

Future Stars: Jain (Sony France)

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The breakthrough success of Christine and the Queens was one of the most pleasant surprises of 2016, and I hope it will mean that British audiences are more open to similarly quirky European acts. The prime candidate to follow in her footsteps is another French female singer, Jain, whose music and visuals are a mix of Alizée and Petite Meller, blending cool, weird and cute. The 25-year-old, born Jeanne Galice, travelled the world as a child, living in Africa and the Middle East, and you can see the influence of this on her multicultural sound. Jain is best known for her debut single Come, which reached no.1 in France and Spain, and top 20 in Belgium, Italy and Poland. The stylishly silly video has over 64 million views. Her debut album Zanaka was released in 2015, but it has taken the last two years for her to reach a wider audience, thanks to festival appearances (including Glastonbury 2017, and BST Hyde Park, where I saw her recently) and TV performances (including Later… with Jools Holland in April). Her video for new single Dynabeat got 700,000 views in its first 5 days, showing that she now has a fanbase ready and excited for what’s next.